California - court of appeal rules against R.J. Reynolds for running ad in Rolling Stones Magazine in 2007..

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July 2, 2010 - The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday, June 29th that an advertisement depicting flying radios with helicopter rotors, jet-propelled tractors and televisions growing from the ground on plant stalks violated a 1998 settlement barring the use of cartoons in cigarette advertising.

4th District Court, Division One said R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company violated the settlement when it ran the four-page advertisement in Rolling Stone Magazine in 2007 to promote the company’s “Camel Farm” campaign to sell cigarettes to fans of rock musicians on independent record labels.

Background: Attorneys general from 8 states have filed a motion against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) alleging that RJR is illegally marketing cigarettes to youth through a current advertising campaign violating the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). That agreement, which the tobacco industry signed to end the national tobacco litigation, expressly prohibits the use of cartoons to advertise or promote cigarettes.

At least eight states – Maine, Ohio, California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Washington – sued the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company after the fold-out advertisement appeared in one of (November 15, 2007) Rolling Stone’s special 40th anniversary issues.

On May 26, 2010 the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected the state's argument that a cigarette company's spread in Rolling Stone magazine violated a tobacco industry settlement. The court ruled 4-2 without comment to decline Attorney General Richard Cordray's appeal of a lower court ruling that sided with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Ohio - Supreme Court rules in favor of R.J. Reynolds in Rolling Stones magazine multi-page ad..)

On July 13, 2009 the Washington state Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s finding that content Reynolds produced for the 2007 Rolling Stone advertisement did not include cartoons. Though the photographic images weren’t Disney-style illustrations, the appeals court said they were cartoonishly arranged in a bucolic collage. The theme of the “Camel Farm” ad campaign was that Reynolds was helping to support – grow – independent music.

The Maine and Ohio judges sided with the company and California came back with a split decision. In May, a Pennsylvania judge became the first to hold Reynolds liable, ordering the company to pay $302,000 or run a full-page anti-smoking ad in Rolling Stone. Reynolds vowed to appeal.

Washington State - R.J. Reynolds found guilty of violating ban on cartoons..
Statement of Decision, Judge Ronald S. Prager - State of California vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Superior Court of Caliofrnia, County of San Diego, 2/25/2009)

Reynolds and the nation’s other largest tobacco companies entered into the [master] settlement agreement with 46 states and the District of Columbia to resolve claims against the companies relating to public health and the marketing of tobacco products to minors.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, along with other states’ attorneys general, filed suit after the ad ran in Rolling Stone, arguing that it violated the settlement. Prager agreed, although he rejected the contention that Reynolds was responsible for placing the ad so that it bookended five pages of editorial content accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations.

Reynolds appealed, but Presiding Justice Judith McConnell rebuffed the company’s argument that the settlement’s definition of “cartoon” was ambiguous. McConnell, however, wrote that adopting Reynolds’ interpretation would defeat the purpose of including the term “object” insofar as no object can demonstrate the human attributes such as “courage and principle” denoted by the word “hero.”

Opining that Prager’s determination that the ad was a cartoon was correct, she also pointed to an opinion by a Washington court involving similar litigation, State of Washington v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Wash.App. 2009) 211 P.3d 448, quoting:

“[I]t is plain that one focus of the [settlement] is to prohibit the marketing of tobacco products by the use of unnatural images. The Camel Farm imagery depends entirely upon suspension of the laws of nature. Under a blue sky in a pastoral Eden, roosters hitch rides on floating tractors, speakers grow out of the ground, and radios fly. This is in a world where the natural laws do not obtain, where cancer and serious health problems can cease to exist. For a product known to cause both, such a world is a potent sales device.”

In a separate portion of the opinion, McConnell also rejected Reynolds’ claim that Prager committed reversible error in concluding that he had discretion under the settlement to assess monetary sanctions against the company for using cartoons. Pointing out that Prager opted not to impose such sanctions, she said the issue was moot.

Justices Richard D. Huffman and James A. McIntyre joined McConnell in her opinion. The case is In re Tobacco Cases I, 10 S.O.S. 3563.

Reference: C.A.: Advertisement Violated 1998 Tobacco Settlement by STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, 6/30/2010.

Directly related news briefs:
Ohio - Supreme Court rules in favor of R.J. Reynolds in Rolling Stones magazine multi-page ad..;
Connecticut - settlement with R.J. Reynolds cartoon cigarette ads..;
Washington State - R.J. Reynolds found guilty of violating ban on cartoons..;
Pennsylvania - Judge rules Camel Ads Violated Ban On Cartoons..;
RJR drops print ads...